Experience over the past decades has shown that human rights NGOs vary in mandate, focus, and methods, but some can contribute in important ways to the documentation of torture and subsequent legal action:
- They can assist individuals to gain advice, services and treatment, from the legal and medical professions, through lawyers and health professionals who are part of the NGO or by referral to others.
- NGOs are often best placed to handle the case of the individual in the international arena, for example by assisting and advising in making complaints to international courts and other mechanisms.
- The information held by the NGO on other similar cases and the research conducted on torture and other ill-treatment domestically and internationally, can provide valuable support to the case of the individual. Their knowledge of local circumstances can be very important. In certain cases it may be possible to combine a number of cases into joint complaints and petitions.
- NGOs often have the expertise for any necessary work to be done through public advocacy or with the media.
- NGOs can assist in the prevention of abuse, for example, by circulating information about those who have been recently arrested.
Although the circumstances vary considerably between countries, generally it is better for an NGO to be open about its activities in helping survivors of torture and to develop links with relevant regional and international bodies; this makes it easier to seek protection from intimidation by the national authorities.